Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Circumcision in Acts

SCRIPTURE - Act 15:5-12
But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up, and said, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the law of Moses ."

The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter.

And after there had been much debate, Peter rose and said to them, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith.

Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will."

And all the assembly kept silence; and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.

The early church dispensed Christians with certain ceremonial laws (the yoke) that were a part of the Torah – the Law of Moses.

What’s the yoke?

Some people might say it is the Law of Moses but you can’t say it is the Law of Moses without distinction, because Peter is not saying “Look, we have not been able to resist the temptation of murder or to lie or to commit adultery or to covet and now we are finally free of all of those commandments”.
Hardly! We are not allowed to lie or to steal or to murder or to commit adultery.

So what laws then does Peter speak of when he says this “yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear”.

You may recall in Deuteronomy and all of the additional ceremonies laws that God imposed upon the Israel after the Golden Calf incident because of their idolatry. A sort of penitential discipline that was to last until their hearts were cleansed by faith.

In addition to the Ten Commandments, the simple Law that had been given at Sinai before the Golden Calf, there are all these additional penitential ceremonies added to Israel. These constituted a sort of ceremonial yoke that really isolated and quarantined Israel from the nations because their holiness was much weaker than the sinfulness of the gentiles.

Now that is no longer true. It can be dispensed with.
The coming of the Holy Spirit changed all that.

In the Old Testament if I were to touch a leper, a corpse or a menstruating woman I was unclean.

In the New Testament Jesus comes along and a leper touches him. He is not defiled and the leper was cleansed.
Jesus touches a corpse, He is not defiled and the corpse is raised to life.
Jesus is touched by a menstruating woman, He isn’t defiled and her blood flow stops.

The New Covenant has come with Christ and now the power of holiness greatly exceeds the power of sinfulness.
So all of the walls of isolation and quarantine are torn down.

So Peter is saying in effect “Listen to me. These laws are no longer needed because the Holy Spirit has cleansed our hearts by faith and the Gentiles as well. God has lifted this yoke from us which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear “
and all of the assembly kept silence.

Source: Scott Hahn
Our Fathers Plan Bible Study

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